Firstly, I would like to welcome the new President and congratulate them on their appointment. It is hard work but very rewarding, and there is an amazing team at the PMI to work with, but you will know that already.
My two and a bit years is finally over; time for a bit of reflection. It is safe to say the PMI has been very busy over the last two years, not least in the last seven months responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. The transition to working from home was carried out smoothly and successfully. The team’s spirit has been maintained with regular virtual drinks on Fridays and Tim Middleton’s famous quiz sessions. It is important our team is not only provided with the tools to continue working, but that we also ensure their mental wellbeing is catered for. One of our strategic goals was to be an employer people want to, and are proud to, work for. Hopefully, how we have looked after the team during this crisis has demonstrated our commitment to this aim.
Our strategic aims included being digital by default and Covid-19 situation certainly expedited this. Our plans had to be accelerated and, with a lot of hard work by all departments, we achieved an awful lot. We have been working for the last 12 months on a new Client Relationship System (CRM), including a more modern, user-friendly portal. We are pleased its launch in May 2020 went smoothly and was linked to our new dynamic website. We also brought our physical events online, ensuring our members did not miss out on technical updates and learning opportunities. We are also grateful to our Insight Partners, sponsors and volunteers who provided high quality content for our webinars. And, then we also went online with exams, aiming to have all exams online by the end of 2020.
Stepping away from Covid and the last few months, it would be easy to forget the other achievements the PMI has had. The commercial team surpassed themselves, winning a silver award at the Association Excellence Awards for Pension Aspect Live 2019 for the second year in a row. The newly launched Trustee Workbench which attracted over 300 trustees, also won an award – bronze for a new event. Unfortunately, this year’s events were cancelled but we had a 13-week series of webinars followed by the Trustee Fortnight, and soon the autumn series of conferences kicks off with the DC and Master Trust Symposium, followed by our second PensTech event. Back to Covid-19 again, but it has demonstrated the importance of how we use technology in our industry, so I am expecting a very pertinent agenda for that one.
Another of our aims was to increase our trustee membership. We reviewed the offering and adapted it specifically for trustees, providing ample opportunities to increase their knowledge and improve access to learning materials. By making ourselves more attractive to trustees our membership increased to over 1200 trustee members, ranging in age from 25 to over 80. It was only natural that the Professional Trustees Standards Working Group announced the PMI as the body to provide the exams and to run the accreditation process alongside the Association of Professional Pension Trustees’ guardianship of the standards. Early this year we launched APTitude, giving the accreditation process and exams their own brand. We also succeeded in awarding the first Professional Trustee Accreditation, an exciting time for the PMI. But, we will not rest on our laurels; we see this as a steppingstone to continually improving standards through learning and we will be looking at higher level qualifications for Professional Trustees going forward.
It would be remiss of me not to highlight the qualifications team and the work undertaken by them. We were committed to reviewing our qualifications, and more importantly, how they were delivered. A review was undertaken and we heard very clear messages from our membership and their employers. PMI qualifications remain key to the PMI delivering on its objectives – to improve the standards of professionalism of those working in pensions. They are also important to our members’ careers and progression. The qualifications team and the wider PMI has worked on responding to our members requests i.e. making registering and paying for exams easier, and exams going online. However, one of the fundamental changes has been the refocus from qualifications to lifelong learning. This shift in focus ensures that the PMI is looking to deliver learning opportunities to members throughout their careers, enabling them to keep learning, keep challenging themselves, and to evidence their achievements.
A couple of my favourite initiatives have come from the membership team. The first is the student essay writing competition. We have now run four competitions and its popularity with students has not waned. Open to any student member from those starting their career to those topping up their existing qualifications, the range of members entering is varied and the resultant essays reflect this. We are delighted to see the imaginative and out-of-the-box thinking demonstrated by our students. We see this as an opportunity to let the imagination run almost wild. I urge students to take advantage of this opportunity to get their name in lights; plus to have been published in Pensions Aspects and Professional Pensions would look great on any CV.
PMI mentoring programme launch
The second initiative is the mentoring programme; a good example of how the PMI works with fellow institutes. The mentoring programme is run in conjunction with the Institute of Leadership and Management, has run for a year, and has twenty mentors and twenty mentees. Halfway through, it looks to be very successful and as a mentor myself, I get a lot from being able to help someone, even in a small way. Helping people develop, whether through education or with softer skills, is a part of what the PMI is for.
The marketing team deserve a mention; without their hard work, many of our initiatives would have gone unnoticed. They have worked hard in assisting us to work towards achieving another goal; being the authoritative voice within pensions. We have featured in both the pensions and national press and it is important we represent the views of the members on key topics. The team have quietly rebranded the PMI, with a soft launch that demonstrated the results of our evolution and journey.
So far I have highlighted the work of the PMI teams, however the work of the council and committees must not be forgotten. The council’s role is advising the PMI on its strategic direction and in providing sage advice on how to deliver on that strategy. For the first time ever, we used our powers to co-opt a non-PMI person to the council to provide specific skills required for a project. Another of our goals, the regional groups and how the centre can help, is an ongoing project for the PMI. The aim being to bring cohesion and support making use of our customer relationship management capabilities. Earlier this year we were delighted to launch a new regional group in Northern Ireland which is quietly becoming a pensions hotbed of talent. Another tick for delivery on our goals.
The Public & Policy Affairs Committee deserves a mention for the hard work carried out not only in responding to an endless stream of consultations but for becoming more proactive by launching the Pulse Survey. By taking the Pulse of the membership, it enables us to feed into other committees, suggesting areas for research, learning and thought leadership. It has also gained quite a lot of coverage in the pensions press. The Commercial Development committee, alongside its two sub-committees of membership and trustee members, has done a sterling job of ensuring the conferences, seminars, round tables, annual dinner and lectures have been excellent, pertinent, entertaining and more modern. The Lifetime Learning Commitment (LLC) has gone through a change due to OfQual insistence for governance purposes that representatives of employers making use of our qualifications could not sit on it. In order to not lose this valuable connection and input from these representatives, we created an additional advisory forum, to enable them to continue to help shape what they need for their employees. The new LLC will continue to advise the qualifications team on exam developments but will also look to drive forward our plans for increasing our training capability and look to create a training academy.
Two final committees, Risk and Assurance, and Regulations, both work hard to keep us honest. Their roles may not appear as glamorous as the others but are no less vital. My thanks go to them for their hard work during the last two years.
And, as I hand over the Presidency, there is still much more in the pipeline for the PMI. The five-year plan is not yet complete and there are areas delayed due to changing priorities and Covid-19. However, these will be achieved in the next year; our societal goal included financial education. We have made a start with the launch of Retirement Matters but we also want to deliver on Diversity & Inclusion. This is a case of watch this space.
Finally, I would like to thank some people. My two Vice Presidents, Lesley Alexander and Tim Phillips, as well as Lorraine Harper who was Vice President when I began; your support has been needed! To the board and council for putting up with my mad ideas. To Gareth Tancred, Fran Schiller and the PMI team, it has been such fun working with you all, getting to know you all and seeing the end results of all your hard work. I would also thank my KGC colleagues who have had to put up with my being ‘Queen’ for two years.
So, goodbye and good luck to the new President!
Last update: 26 February 2021